- Candice Strongwater
Due to the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 health crisis, schools around the world have experienced a rapid and strenuous transition from in-person education to remote learning. In the US, enterprise tech corporations like Google and Zoom have become key collaborators in the questionable effort to optimize videoconferencing as a mass teaching and learning solution. Like the US Department of Defense, the US Department of Education has historically relied on telepresence models during acute national crises. These remote transmission systems, which encompass software, hardware, and educational theory, are part of a pedagogical legacy used to shape and enhance communication, perception, and cognition. As today’s education sector increasingly and unevenly assimilates “users” into an online learning environment, it is crucial to reflect on the histories, protocols, and networks of an educational system directed by corporate technological efficiency.
Classroom Arsenal is an exhibition featuring archival materials and a newly commissioned work by artist Shawn Maximo, made in response to contemporary issues surrounding the explicit and implicit function of educational technologies and their use within classroom environments. Focused on the 1964 New York World’s Fair and its special attention to the education industry, Classroom Arsenal presents archival materials from both the Hall of Education, an exhibition that imagined the “schools of tomorrow,” and the pavilions of IBM and Bell System, two telecommunication corporations that played important yet distinct roles in the development of edu-tech. The research component further explores how educational technologies became popularized in the twentieth century as tools for classroom learning. Accompanying the archival materials, Maximo’s work exposes some of the complexities inherent in the research and development of educational technologies, using artistic practice to run interference against edu-tech’s dominant rhetoric of “progress.”